When the Corolla was first released, only a 2-door sedan was available. From there, a 4-door sedan and van were added to the lineup for a total of three body types for this first generation. Also, the engine lineup included the 1.1-liter K engine, the sporty K-B engine equipped with twin carburetors and the K-D engine, which strove for enhanced output through a high compression ratio. In the latter half of the model period, the 1.2-liter 3K, 3K-B and 3K-D engines were adopted to replace the 1.1-liter K-engine series.

For the exterior design, a fresh image was targeted that symbolized the "new era" that had begun to arrive in Japan. With this, for the first time by Toyota, a semi-fastback style with widespread use of curved surfaces expressing an "active yet charming, feminine image" was adopted. A design was selected that portrayed, at a glance, a sporty image from the entire vehicle, and the developer's concept of "+α = sporty image" was faithfully expressed. In a catalog, the Corolla was introduced as having a "creative design reflecting the simplicity of Japanese values," and its appealing style fostered a fresh, sporty atmosphere that captured the hearts of the general public.

At the time of its initial release, the Corolla was equipped with the K engine with a displacement of 1.1-liter to provide a 0.1-liter advantage over the numerous 1.0-liter engines in its class. The engine generated a maximum output of 60ps/6000rpm and a maximum torque of 8.5kg-m/3800rpm. Numerous revolutionary technologies were adopted, such as a 5-bearing crankshaft that can endure high speeds and a high camshaft system to achieve high performance. In addition, in the latter half of the model period, the 3K engine was adopted with engine displacement expanded to 1.2-liter. This engine generated a maximum output of 68ps/6000rpm and a maximum torque of 9.5kg-m/3500rpm for improved acceleration performance in medium and high speed ranges.

Sports car technology was adopted for the transmission, and the vehicle was equipped with a 4-speed fully-synchronized manual transmission with a floor type gear change lever. This marked the first time that this type of transmission was adopted in a Japanese vehicle, and a sporty, direct shifting feel was achieved. In addition, Japan's first floor-mounted 2-speed automatic transmission and a steering column-mounted 4-speed manual transmission, already familiar in other vehicles, were made available.

For the front suspension, a MacPherson strut type suspension, the mainstream for today's vehicles, was adopted for the first time in Japan. To ensure a quiet interior, a semi-floating type rear suspension was adopted that reduced the squeaking noise from the leaf springs.

Separate bucket type seats that materialize the "sporty image" were adopted for the front seats. In addition to a front to back slide adjustment range of 120mm and a 16-step reclining mechanism, the seats could be fully reclined. Equipment found in higher grade vehicles but not in family cars, such as armrests, a console box, radio and heater, were also adopted to create a dramatically more comfortable interior.

When the Corolla was first released, drum brakes were adopted for both the front and rear. Midway through the model period, for the first time on a family car, front disc brakes were adopted on some of the models. In addition, safety countermeasures were progressively enhanced during the model period, including pull-type recessed outside door handles without projections and 2-point and 3-point seatbelts. Original safety designs were also incorporated, such as 2-speed wipers, an impact absorption steering wheel and column, headrests and parking brake warning lights. By looking at the safety features standardized in this first generation to meet U.S. standards and in anticipation of expanding exports, it is apparent that safety always has been an important factor for the Corolla.